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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2017

The 40 Year Test

It is well documented how much the Israelites complained on their way to the promise land. They had good reason to complain – many hardships  happened to them along the way.  Some would even say God was testing them on this 40 year journey.

 

Perhaps that is what is also happening here in our story about Parting of the Red Sea. It seems whenever Christians talk about Exodus 14 they discuss it as a miracle and not a test of faith for the Israelites. The actual passages contain a lot of discussion about the temptation of going back to Egypt and giving into Pharaoh even while they are being chased through the desert. Moses is then told by God to keep moving and reach out the staff over the sea.

 

It is interesting to think that one of the most remembered moments in the Bible is another test of faith for a group of people who were just delivered out of slavery. God even asks Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on!”  Moses is saying God will come to help them. It is important to remember that even though God did part the Red Sea he did it through the actions of Moses. It could be argued that God was using this event to tell the Israelites that during the journey they NEED to follow and listen to Moses.

 

In my Old Testament studies at Lutheran High School in Rockford I was also astounded that the Israelites would always go astray – from building a golden calf to getting Moses so angry he disobeyed God and didn’t get to enter the promise land.  At least that is how I read it.  Those Israelites could never pull their act together!

 

So, what can we learn from their stories?  Maybe the next time we feel lost, ask yourself: WWTID (what would the Israelites do) and do the opposite. At least that is how I see it.

 

Will

 

 

Looking for a king?

Today’s Text:  Colossians 1:3-20

Let me ask you…Do you need a King?  On the surface, you most likely would not agree.  We are Americans.  We have a democracy.  But…you know that’s not what I am asking…

Paul’s powerful words in Colossians, provide a foundation for the church.  One that is lasting and secure.  Understanding who our real king is, provides a foundation of faith…love…hope.

A foundation that produces rich soil for specific behaviors to take root and thrive in those who claim to follow Jesus.  This is the heart of SUBMISSION.  Our last SERVANT value and very appropriate this Good Friday.  Submission…Christ did…So we…COULD.  Notice I said COULD not would.  Could…it implies a pending decision.  Regarding how we live…our vocation.  Our calling to submit, to yield, to Christ as our king.  And serve HIM.

Good Friday is more than just knowing what happened.  It’s more than knowledge.  Paul has told us time and again…in 1st Corinthians…in Romans…and again…in Colossians.  Paul provides for us what real living should look like.  If …Jesus is our king.  Our lives, “Will bear fruit as we grow in the knowledge of God’s will.”

If we know why Jesus was on that cross.  If we submit to Jesus as king of our life.  And the church.  This knowledge becomes living – living in right actions and attitudes.  It’s our SERVANT values: Spirit-filled; Empathy; Renewal; Visibly seeking out; All together; Nearing God; Teaching; Submission.  Values identified by the dirt under each of our finger nails, for they are constantly being worked into the ground of our being.  If….Jesus is our king.

SERVANT Values that are lived out generously, joyfully…giving thanks to God.  Those who submit to Jesus as their king, understand a reckless extravagance in their living.  Extravagance known to them because of God’s generosity toward them.  Generosity in and on that cross.

If Jesus is our king, OUR generosity is lived out without boundaries through our SERVANT values to the poor, the outcast, the stranger…even those we find it hard to love.

If Jesus is your king, our SERVANT values are a constant reminder of our call to live as SERVANTS.  So let your living be grounded this way:  you are the only Bible some people may ever read…you are the only Jesus some people may ever see.   Jesus is calling you to serve him by serving others.

If Jesus is your king, you will respond.  You will live out our SERVANT values, because OTHERS… need to know who has already won the war!!

 

A Good Friday Reflection

Good Friday… What is so good about it?

For Christ, the journey to the cross, started long before he set foot in Jerusalem. It started long before the heaven opened and the voice from heaven proclaimed: This is my Son! Good Friday became good when it was first promised, in the very Garden where God walked along side Adam & Eve. Good Friday was good because of the promise it carried, a promise that brought Creator and Creation side by side. Good Friday was good, with all the messiness the pain and suffering, Good Friday was good. Without the goodness of this day, Christ’s suffering and sacrifice would be just a painful, hard to talk about day in our history. And that submission of the Christ to the will of God, that moment of “let your will be done”, that moment of the last breath on the cross that uttered: It is over; that is what makes this Friday Good. It is good because is a day about hope found in promises kept, it is good because it is about seeing the redemption Christ brought as he carried his cross on the way to Golgotha.

Today i want to encourage you to rejoice in the sadness that this day brings. It is the day the Lord carried our sins to the cross, but it is also the day that God fulfilled his promise.

If you have a little time today please read John 18-19 and let the events of the day speak to your heart.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Serve, not Be Served

humility-rick-warren-quote1

Maundy Thursday Readings

Each of these text passages cover the events of what we now know as the Last Supper. This was, of course, the last meal Jesus would have eaten before the crucifixion. And this meal, as we know, took place at the Passover celebration. So the Exodus passage gives us the story of THE Passover, in which Israelites enslaved in Egypt painted lambs’ blood on the door jambs to signal the angel of death to pass by their homes en route to killing all of the firstborn of Egypt. In the Psalm, we read about giving thanks to God for hearing our cries for help, just as Israel cried for help in being released from their bondage. In I Corinthians, Paul reminds us why we celebrate communion. And finally, in John, we read about the washing of feet by Jesus.

I want to focus on the feet washing today. What a strange story, isn’t it? Sitting at dinner with 12 of your closest friends, enjoying your meal and some wine (presumably). And all of a sudden, that friend who is sort of the leader of your group gets up from his seat, changes into more comfortable clothes, and starts washing your feet? But this is even more interesting because this wasn’t just a friends who likes to take charge. This was Jesus. King of the Jews. God Incarnate. Washing feet. And thinking about the footwear of the day, and the irregularity of the bathing habits of people of ancient times, I can’t image how gnarly those 12 pairs of feet had to be. If Mike Rowe lived 2,000 years ago, I think feet washing would have been featured on an episode of Dirty Jobs.

So what is the significance of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples? As I read some commentaries to prepare for this blog entry, I found two things that Jesus was probably trying to get across to his closest disciples. First, that he loved them beyond any measure, just as he loves all of us just the same. He was willing to do one of the dirtiest jobs of the times to signify his love for his followers (see vs. 34-35). The other thing is that Jesus humbled himself, just as we are to humble ourselves. Here is Jesus, THE KING, humbling himself to a job typically only done by indentured servants. As Jesus said, he came to serve, not be served (Matthew & Mark).

So, not that we need to start washing feet, but we need to meet the people around us where they are at, and to serve them and love them, just as Jesus did the same for us. Happy Easter to all of you!

The “Servant”

Isaiah 49

Summary: This unnamed “Servant” addresses the “coast-lines” to speak out words predestined from his mothers womb (vv. 1-3)…He has been hidden from view to execute God’s plan (v. 5)…This “Servant” is for all peoples (vv. 6-8) of the earth…It seems a regathering (vv. 8-13) is in the offing…”Sinim” (v. 12) may refer to people of the far east, perhaps the Japanese and Chinese…Zion expresses fear (v. 14) of being abandoned by God…God’s reply (vv. 15-18) portraits Zion as an ungrateful child…Zion’s concern is in it’s ability to multiply (read: reproduce) itself and prosper given it’s circumstances (vv. 19-21)…To this complaint, God states (vv. 22-26) that He will work through His peoples, under the apparent direction of the “Servant” to overcome it all.

Analysis: God has decided to work through this “Servant” agent in His dealings with the peoples of the earth…This regathering looks to be a worldwide event…Certainly, the world hasn’t experienced anything like it in it’s past…Regarding Zion’s regathering, they have not been together for a long time (Joshua 21)…The ingratitude of Zion is a familiar theme…If there is anything that mankind is adept at, it is taking things – life itself, for granted…Again, all that is to be accomplished, whatever it is, will be done through this “Servant.”

Monday of Holy Week

Isaiah 42:1-9 (NIV)

Psalm 36:5-11 (NIV)

John 12:1-11(NIV)

Hebrews 9:11-15 (NIV)

We go with Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross this week.  How great it is to know the end of the story; the Empty Tomb and Easter Resurrection.  Nevertheless we miss the power of Easter if we hurry through this decisive week in Jesus’ life and ministry.

Isaiah speaks to us of the long awaited Messiah centuries before Jesus appeared. ““Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets…In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth…6 I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.  I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,…”

The Psalm speaks to us of the love of God.  5  “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies…7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!”

We see God’s love most clearly in Jesus.  Jesus gave himself up to death for all the world and in the passage from John we see the chief priests, who hated Jesus, making plans to to kill Lazarus in addition to Jesus.

In Hebrews we read of Jesus as the perfect High Priest who offered up himself that we might be cleansed, forgiven from the inside out.  For “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Let us walk with Jesus this week through the streets of Jerusalem, to the temple, to the Upper Room, to Gethsemane, to the cross, to the sealed tomb of death, to the darkness of Saturday, and finally to the light of Easter Resurrection. May God guide and bless you this week and always.

 

 

When fear rules the world

Psalm 31:9-16New International Version (NIV)

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,[a]
    and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
    I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
    those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
    I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
    “Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
    and plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your unfailing love.

This has been another week when the news carry out the new reality of the world we live: pain, terror, anger and a lot of distress. That reality, at times, makes me silent, angry, afraid you name it… It goes so deep that my prayer becomes nothing more than Lord have mercy.
Today’s Psalm just came along those lines, but with a little hope for each one of us reading. When God is our foundation, there is Hope, there is Love and there is redemption. And with that in mind i get up and go in to a new day trying to do my own best to be a voice for the hope.
I encourage you today to pray this psalm as your own, and let your life become a symbol of God’s hope.
Be blessed,
Bo M.

What Will You Do With Jesus ?

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Hebrews 3.15-4.6

1 John 2.2

Acts 6.8, 7.60

Luke 23.34

A question from a lady came to me one day in a class,  ” In the book of Acts chapter 7. vs. 60 where Stephen is being stoned, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he prays ‘ Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’  If he was inspired to say this, did God forgive them?”  I had no answer then, but did ponder and research the question.  In a similar occasion when Jesus was on the cross in Luke’s gospel, chapter 23. vs. 34, ” but Jesus was saying, ‘Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ ”  The same question occurs, did He forgive them?

As we read in 1 John chapter 2. vs. 2 ” and He Himself, (Jesus Christ, the righteous),  is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours alone, but also for those of the whole world.”  This is a key verse in the answer to her question.  The ‘our sins’ is in reference to the believers that John is writing to, and therefore to all believers in Jesus Christ. We who believe have an advocate with the Father, in Jesus, and the satisfaction for our sins.  But the verse  goes on to say, ” not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Hebrews 3. 15- 4.6 This is a picture of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt that the writer of Hebrews is incorporating, and the key to the answer for my friend and myself.  While Israel was enslaved to Egypt, God sent a deliverer, Moses, to set them free from their bondage.  Now as free people they are in the wilderness, set free from slavery, but wandering.  When they come to the edge of the promised land, and what a concept they missed here, they were going to the Promised Land!  If Jehovah has promised you something you can bank on it, don’t capitulate, don’t waver, take it to the bank!  They were on the verge of entering this land, and they balked, they believed 10 of the 12 spies they sent to scope out the land, instead of God who promised the land.  So they were not allowed to enter in to that land of rest, and promise.  In like manner, the text continues, we as mankind are enslaved to sin.  God has sent a deliverer, Jesus Christ, the righteous, to set us free from our slavery to sin.  So here we are wandering in the wilderness, at the edge of the promised land, heaven, everlasting life, and what will we believe?  Do we believe  the lies of the spies, the love of the enslavement to sin, the endless wandering with no end in sight, are we satisfied with the unsatisfactory?  Or do we believe in the truth of God our Father and the finished work of our  Savior Jesus Christ?

Hebrews 3.19, ” And so we see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief.”   Today mankind is faced with the same decision, and not able to enter into everlasting life because of unbelief. Their sins are forgiven, as were the sins of the murderers of both Jesus and Stephen.  But what did they do with the opportunity offered to them, to enter into His rest.  Did they believe, coupled with faith in the finished work of Christ or did they die in the wilderness.  Standing at the edge of the promised land, of everlasting life,  the big question we all face is, “What will we do with Jesus?”

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